Vaccines to Prevent Influenza (Flu)

Vaccines to Prevent Influenza (Flu)

British Columbia Specific Information

Influenza is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms vary from mild to severe and can include fever, headache, runny nose, sore throat or cough. The influenza vaccines protect against the viruses that cause influenza. To learn more about the influenza vaccines, and to access influenza-related information from your health authority, visit our Influenza (Flu) Season health feature.

The symptoms of flu are similar to other respiratory illnesses including the common cold and COVID-19. Use the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to find out if you or your family members need further assessment or testing for COVID-19. To learn more about the coronavirus, symptoms, how it spreads and prevention visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) health feature.

Topic Contents

Topic Overview

Can you prevent the flu?

You can help prevent influenza (flu) by getting a flu vaccine every year, as soon as it is available. The vaccine prevents most cases of the flu. But even when the vaccine doesn't prevent the flu, it can make symptoms less severe and reduce the chance of problems from the flu.

What types of flu vaccines are there?

Flu viruses are always changing. Each year's flu vaccine is made to protect against viruses that are likely to cause disease that year. Ask your doctor whether or not a vaccine is safe for you and which one may be best for you.

Flu vaccines are made to work against more than one strain of flu. For example, a trivalent vaccine works against three strains, and a quadrivalent vaccine works against four strains of flu.

The vaccine is given as a shot or a nasal spray. The type of vaccine you get will depend on your province's guidelines and your doctor's recommendation.

Flu shots do not contain a live virus. They do not cause the flu. They are sometimes called "inactivated" or "recombinant" vaccines.

  • "Standard" flu shots are approved for people 6 months and older.
  • A high-dose version is approved for people 65 and older. Ask your doctor if this shot is right for you.

Not all locations that provide flu vaccines will have all the different types of shots.

The nasal spray vaccine is a live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). This means the virus is alive but has been treated so that it can't cause disease. The body is still able to react to it and build immunity against the flu.

  • The nasal spray vaccine is approved for people ages 2 through 59 years.

Who should get a flu vaccine?

Everyone age 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine each year, except for people who have had serious problems with flu vaccines in the past. The flu vaccine lowers the chance of getting and spreading the flu.

Who is at high risk for problems from the flu?

The flu vaccine is very important for people who are at high risk for getting other health problems from the flu. This includes:

  • Anyone 65 years of age or older.
  • People who live in a long-term care centre, such as a nursing home or other chronic care facility.
  • All children 6 months through 59 months of age.
  • Children 6 months to 18 years of age taking aspirin for long periods of time. These children have increased risk for Reye syndrome if they get the flu.
  • Women who will be pregnant during the flu season.
  • Indigenous peoples.
  • Adults and children 6 months and older who have long-term heart or lung problems, such as asthma.
  • Adults and children 6 months and older who needed medical care or were in a hospital during the past year because of diabetes, chronic kidney disease, or a weak immune system (including HIV or AIDS).
  • People who have any condition that can make it hard to breathe or swallow (such as a brain injury or muscle disorders).
  • People who can give the flu to others who are at high risk for problems from the flu. This includes all health care workers and people who live with or have close contact with people at high risk for problems from the flu.


Adaptation Date: 1/10/2023

Adapted By: HealthLink BC

Adaptation Reviewed By: HealthLink BC